"la Caixa" Foundation Grants

About "la Caixa" Foundation Research Grants on Socioeconomic Well-being

Funded by "la Caixa" Foundation, the Research Grants on Socioeconomic Well-being support ground-breaking research projects directed by Affiliated Professors of the Barcelona Graduate School of Economics. The topics investigated have direct implications for socioeconomic well-being. 

Projects are selected from a competitive open call within the Barcelona GSE research community, and proposals are evaluated by a Scientific Committee of experts. 

Awarded projects have included such topics as economic growth, children's health, immigration, and political instability.

Select a project below to learn more about each topic:

2018 Grants

facultyDavide Debortoli

UPF and Barcelona GSE

Economic Fluctuations, Heterogeneity and Macroeconomic Policies

Heterogeneity among households —in terms of their preferences, education, income and wealth— is a pervasive feature of our economies. An open question, however, is to understand to what extent such heterogeneity affects the behavior of macroeconomic aggregates, such as inflation and employment. The main goal of this project is to develop a general framework to assess the role of households heterogeneity for the propagation of aggregate fluctuations, and the effectiveness of macroeconomic policies, both in macro models and in actual economies. In addition, the project aims at proposing specific tractable models, that capture the main mechanisms through which heterogeneity affects aggregate fluctuations, and that can be used to revisit some central issues of macroeconomic policies, such as the design of fiscal and monetary policies.

facultyJoan-Maria Esteban

IAE-CSIC and Barcelona GSE

facultyLaura Mayoral

IAE-CSIC and Barcelona GSE

Inequality, Political Instability and Long-Term Development

This project aims at understanding how the unequal distribution of resources has contributed to the formation and consolidation of states on the one hand, and to political instability and conflict on the other. Two specific projects are central to this proposal. The first  will investigate  why states arose and developed into complex civilizations in some environments and not in others. Anatomically modern humans have lived roughly 97% of their 200,000 year-long history in stateless societies. The transition from stateless to state societies, only dating back  5,000 years, represents the starting point of  institutions that are known to play a key role in economic development (property rights, taxation, law, bureaucratic rule, creation of armies, etc.),  to the point that this transition can be considered as the Big Bang of economic development.  Our investigation will focus on the factors that facilitated early state development and on how said factors have contributed to shape the institutional framework. Our analysis will shed light on the link between state antiquity and long-term economic development.

The second  part of this proposal analyzes the contemporary drivers of class conflict. Intuitive as it may seem researchers in economics and in political science have been unable to find significant empirical evidence on the effect of income inequality on class conflict. Should we then abandon this nexus as a main cause of social conflict? We claim that previous empirical work has failed to obtain positive results because this nexus is more complex than a mere linear relationship between conflict and the Gini coefficient. Our project consists of building a richer model, obtain which are the main drivers and their interrelation, and use the result of the model as a guidance for the empirical work. One of the new dimensions our model wants to incorporate is that effective social struggle needs both bodies and finance. While the poor's activism is essentially based on time contributed [strikes, demonstrations...] the rich use their money in order to obtain favorable changes of the status quo. An implication of this fact is that  when inequality is very high,  direct class conflict can become prohibitively costly.  We expect to derive a non-linear relationship between income inequality and social conflict thus explaining the apparent ambiguous role played by inequality.

facultyAlbrecht Glitz

UPF and Barcelona GSE

The Economic and Political Effects of Espionage

The objective of this project is to study quantitatively the economics behind industrial and political espionage. The historical context in which I will approach this research question is the cold war era during which the East German Ministry for State Security (the “Stasi”) engaged in extensive industrial and political espionage in the Western world. Exploiting a unique data set that comprises complete records about all the information the Stasi received from its informants in the West between 1969 and 1989, I will first empirically assess the effect of East Germany’s industrial espionage activities on the performance of its own economy. I will then turn to the political side of espionage and analyze whether there is any evidence for interference of the Stasi in West German public and political life. The final part of the project will focus on the individual informants and analyze the underlying motivation for people to steal secrets for a foreign government.

facultyPau Milan

UAB and Barcelona GSE

faculty Raül Santaeulàlia-Llopis

UAB, MOVE and Barcelona GSE

Social Insurance and Economic Growth

The goal of this project is to analyze the potential trade-offs between the provision of social insurance and productivity through village networks. If productive individuals within a village are subject to implicit progressive redistributive taxes, this can have pervasive implications for incentives to work, accumulate wealth, migrate and ultimately grow.  In our investigation we plan to collect a new data set of consumption, income, and network information for a complete village in rural Malawi in order to keep track of the status quo redistributive tax/subsidy scheme and its relation to productivity within village. In this context, we plan to model and estimate pairwise transfer schemes along a village network and study the optimal provision of social insurance.

facultyLuigi Pascali

UPF and Barcelona GSE

Coordinating against the Mafia: Experimental Evidence from an anti-Racket Policy in Sicily

The mafia is often considered one of the main causes of the “questione meridionale”, the historical social and economic gap between Northern and Southern Italy. The most visible aspect of the mafia in the local economic environment is the “pizzo”, a slang term for protection money paid to the mafia under extortion. Recent estimates show that more than two thirds of Sicilian firms pay the pizzo and the average monthly payment is about 880 euros (i.e. it is actually higher than the average tax burden!).

Why aren’t these firms able to coordinate and jointly refuse to pay the pizzo? Previous literature has conjectured that the payment of the pizzo can be rationalized in a context in which lack of trust makes it difficult for businesses to share information and coordinate against the mafia. The aim of this project is to test this conjecture and provide related policy indications by means of a field experiment. Specifically, we will test and evaluate the effectiveness of a policy aimed at increasing the level of generalized trust and, through this channel, at inducing entrepreneurs to be more vocal in opposing the payment of pizzo.

To this purpose, we exploit a unique phenomenon of rebellion that has emerged in Italy: the creation of Addiopizzo, an NGO that unites firms that voluntarily and collectively refuse to pay protection money. A crucial element for success of this action is that a firm’s anti-pizzo stance is made public, as a signal to other firms of lower costs of rebelling, thus triggering a virtuous contagion effect. Nonetheless, we have collected preliminary evidence that: 1. a large number of firms in the Addiopizzo network do not publicize their membership 2. firms in the network underestimate the number of Addiopizzo members in their neighborhood.

The field experiment will test whether increased information and easier coordination among Addiopizzo firms have positive effects on the engagement in the association and, eventually, on the perception of the pizzo among customers, residents and other firms.

2017 Grants

facultyJose Apesteguia

ICREA-UPF and Barcelona GSE

Understanding Risk and Time Preferences

The estimation of the attitudes of individuals with respect to risk-taking and time discounting is a fundamental question in economics and the social sciences in general. A proper understanding of the potential consequences of tax reforms, regulations of health and pension plans, the design of financial markets, and innumerable other crucial aspects of normal modern life, requires of a good understanding of the behavior of the population when confronting risks, and consequences that unfold over time. This proposal aims to develop a novel, theoretically robust, technique to estimate both risk and time preferences jointly, and to then apply the technique to a rigorous empirical scrutiny.

facultyLuca Fornaro

CREI, UPF and Barcelona GSE

Stabilization Policies and Growth: A Keynesian Growth Perspective

The goal of this project is to build a macroeconomic framework integrating a state-of-the-art features of growth and business cycles models, and to use it as a “laboratory” to shed lights on several open research questions. First, it will be used to understand how investment in innovation and productivity growth react to changes in monetary and fiscal policy. Second, the model will provide insights on the response of productivity growth to large shocks, such as severe financial crises. Third, the model will be used to evaluate quantitatively the stagnation traps hypothesis recently advanced in the literature. Fourth, the model will be used to derive normative implications on the optimal conduct of stabilization policies, such as fiscal or monetary policy.

facultyLibertad González

UPF and Barcelona GSE

The Causal Effect of Early Interventions on Child Health and Cognitive Development

This project aims at understanding how do early shocks affect health and human capital formation during childhood (the so-called "missing middle"). Specifically, the project asks: How do the effects of different types of interventions, or shocks at different ages, compare? What are the most cost-effective ways of improving young children's future outcomes? The project will take advantage of several natural experiments in a country, Spain, for which high quality administrative data are available for the past 35 years, to evaluate credibly and precisely the causal effects of several different public policies and shocks on child development. Results will help us understand how shocks in early life can have long-term effects on human capital, with direct policy implications.

facultyAndré Gröger

UAB and Barcelona GSE

facultyHannes Mueller

IAE-CSIC and Barcelona GSE

Analyzing Conflict from Space

With the ongoing refugee crisis in the Turkey, the Middle East and North Africa, there is a renewed interest in understanding the causes for flight and the triggers of conflict. At the same time, the Syrian civil war has provided formidable challenges for data gathering due to the extent of the violence and the politicization of violence data. This project tries to help in this effort through the generation of a new method to gather data on violence. Specifically, the project seeks to provide a new, automatized way to capture fighting and destruction using satellite imagery, build a panel dataset using this method, and then illustrate what can be learned from this alternative measure of violence.

facultyJoan Llull

UAB, MOVE and Barcelona GSE

The Labor Market Effects of Selective Immigration Policies

The goal of the project is to analyze whether and how skilled immigration differently affects the labor market relative to general immigration. The project intends to quantify the effect of skilled immigration on wages, labor market participation and occupation decisions, and human capital investment decisions by native workers and previous generations of immigrants. To that end, the project will evaluate the effects of the two main selective immigration policies (in terms of skills) observed in recent U.S. history: the H-1B visa program and the National Origins Formula. A second goal of the project is to determine the level of selectivity of the immigration policy (and, potentially, a transfer scheme) that maximizes native workers’ wellbeing.

La Caixa Foundation. Together, we bring projects to life.